The author’s creation: 6 tips on how to run your first Solo Design Sprint

6 tips on how to run your first Solo Design Sprint

Laura Eiche
7 min readNov 1, 2020


If you’re planning to run a one-person Design Sprint, the odds are probably a bit against you. It’s a tough challenge. Even Jake Knapp, the author of the “Sprint” book, said that probably the sprint won’t be as effective without a team.

So how to ensure success and effectiveness when you’re running solo?

In this article, you’re about to find 6 tips to successfully and efficiently run your first solo Design Sprint.

I surveyed 10 designers who have completed at least one solo sprint before and crafted 6 tips based on the survey results and on my personal experience on running solo design sprints.

Here’s a quick overview of the 6 tips:

1. Get to know the process (get the book)

2. Do a small pre-sprint research on the challenge

3. Plan the user tests before the sprint week

4. Timebox everything and set alarms

5. Get an outsider to hold you accountable and to exchange ideas

6. Shift the process up a little

1. Get to know the process (get the book)

I like to think of Design Sprint as a cake recipe. It’s a step-by-step guide to solve a challenge, like making a big delicious lemon cake.

And just like with every new recipe, you’d need to prepare a bit before starting: read through the ingredients list, briefly check the steps, maybe go shopping.

There’s a lot of material about the Design Sprint method, from free videos and articles to web pages and paid courses.

In my honest opinion, the best bang-for-the-buck way to learn about Design Sprint, is by getting the “Sprint” book by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz. It’s very thorough, with superb explanations and examples, and it’s easy to read and follow along as you go.

What I would do, is:

  • Before the sprint, I’d either read the whole book OR read the first intro chapters up until the chapter about Sprint Day 2.
  • Before every sprint day, I’d revisit the chapters about that day. So on Monday, I’d check the first and second sprint day, and then I’d follow along step-by-step.
  • After every sprint day, I’d read or revisit the chapters about the following day.

2. Do a small pre-sprint research on the challenge

The challenge is one of the three core elements of the Design Sprint. And as with any design challenge, it’s important to understand the problem before moving on to the solutions.

During a Design Sprint with a team, every stakeholder has their perspective regarding the problem. And together, the team can understand the core of the challenge.

Without the team, however, there’s only one angle. So you might only see one aspect of a more complex problem.

To still fully grasp the Sprint challenge running solo, I suggest doing a small research before the solo sprint.

I would invest about half a day to read a few articles, talk with stakeholders, find some competitors, read about the users’ feedback on App Stores etc.

One way to efficiently understand the user’s perspective during research, is to follow the Empathy Map.

Filled Empathy Map Canvas

3. Plan the user tests before the sprint week

Initially in the Design Sprint with a team, the user tests are scheduled during the sprint, on the 3rd day.

In a solo sprint tough, you’d have to multitask to pull it off, so I suggest planning the tests a week or two before the start of the sprint.

Plan the tests in advance, because:

  1. When the tests are already planned, you can focus 100% on the sprint
  2. Having the tests pre-scheduled raises the stakes. You’re accountable for showing something for the testers at the end of the sprint. And when the stakes are high, you’re probably more likely to stick to the schedule and complete the sprint.

Also, don’t cut down on the tests!

The most surprising thing I found from my survey to solo sprinters, is that a bunch of them don’t actually do the tests. And those who don’t, they’re not as happy with the overall experience, rating it approximately 20–30% lower compared to those who did the tests.

Not testing the sprint prototype is like baking a nice big lemon cake and then letting it sit there in the fridge. Show it to others, let them try it and get feedback! :) You’ll be much more satisfied in the end.

4. Timebox everything and set alarms

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re running a solo sprint. Checking the clock and wondering when to take breaks shouldn’t be one of them.

Make your life easier by planning your sprint days and setting alarms.

So, grab a notebook or a calendar and plan the sprint work blocks into your days. And then, set alarms for the starts and ends of sprint sessions.

Here’s what my day looks like during solo sprints

Sprint day in a nutshell + alarms

Don’t skip the breaks!

However tempting it is to skip the breaks or have them later, stick to them. The breaks are very important to keep the energy level high and the motivation up.

As soon as the alarm goes off, stop what you’re doing.

During breaks, I decided to pump my energy with some Spotify hits. This is also a nice time to dance and gets some steps towards the daily 10'000 step goal. ;)

5. Get an outsider to hold you accountable and to exchange ideas

Conducting a solo sprint is pretty demanding. And there surely will come times when you feel stuck or unsure about what to do next.

What helps is having an outsider — a mentor, colleague, friend, fellow designer. Explain that you’re doing this one-week-challenge, and that you might ask for their feedback or support a few times on the way.

So whenever you run into any questions or uncertainties, you could discuss it with them and then move forward. It helps to get an outside view, especially when you’re crafting the Map.

6. Shift the process up a little

Initially, the Design Sprint process is divided into 5 parts (days).

For the solo sprint though, some of these parts will take less time, and some are a bit more time-demanding.

Shrink the first 3 days into 1,5 days

The first 3 days will take about half the time, if you’re running solo. Mostly because less time goes for communicating, voting and deciding.

Plan at least 1 day for prototyping, ideally a bit more

Planning the prototyping phase is probably the most difficult, because the amount of time depends on the challenge, the idea you want to test, previous prototyping experience and so on.

But, when you’re planning the prototyping phase, I would suggest keeping these things in mind:

  • Plan enough time to make a testable prototype for your key idea. Let’s say you’re building a landing page, and the key idea is that there’s a clickable demo on the page. Make sure you have enough time to build this clickable demo at least half-way.
  • Try to keep the prototyping phase less than 4 days. The longer the sprint, the harder it is to stay motivated and clear of distractions.

User tests will take 1,5 to 2 days

If you’re doing solo tests, it’s not just about running the five tests. You’ll also need to review the tests and write down user feedback afterwards.

It would be awesome, however, if you get a colleague or a friend who agrees to watch the live tests and jot everything down as issues appear. In this case, just one day is alright.

And there you have it! :)

Running a solo design sprint is certainly one of the best things I’ve done to help my career as a UX/UI designer.

You can check out my solo sprint story here.

Here’s a quick recap of the 6 tips:

1. Get to know the process (get the book)

2. Do a small pre-sprint research on the challenge

3. Plan the user tests before the sprint week

4. Timebox everything and set alarms

5. Get an outsider to hold you accountable and to exchange ideas

6. Shift the process up a little

If there’s anything missing from this list, let me know.

And if you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach out to me in Linkedin



Laura Eiche

Senior Product Designer at Pipedrive // Visual storyteller and workshopper